Jonathan Chapman is Professor of Sustainable Design, Director of Design Research and Chair of the University of Brighton's Professorial Board (Arts & Humanities).
Best known for his theory of ‘emotionally durable design’, his teaching, research and consultancy advance design and business thinking in a range of settings: from Sony, Puma, The Body Shop and Philips to the House of Lords and the United Nations.
Professor Chapman's research develops strategies for longer-lasting materials, products and user experiences — an approach he defines as, ‘emotionally durable design’. He first established this theory in his monograph, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy (Routledge, 2005; 2015) which has been widely adopted by educators, researchers, designers and businesses, worldwide.
He has collaborated with over 100 global businesses, helping them advance the social and ecological relevance of their products, technologies and systems; including Puma (2010–present), Sony (2012–2013), Philips (2014–present) and The Body Shop (2015–present). In 2008, The House of Lords called upon him as an ‘expert witness’ to inform their Enquiry into Waste Reduction. His report was later discussed in the House of Commons (2008/09), and led to subsequent invitations to advise the United Nations (2014/15) in relation to their Global Sustainability Goals (2015).
As Director of Design Research, he works with multidisciplinary teams in industrial design, product design, interaction design, materials innovation and social design; building research capacity, mentoring early and mid-career researchers and supporting research funding applications. As Chair of the University of Brighton Arts & Humanities Professorial Board, he leads over 30 professors in shaping research strategy and direction.
Chapman conceived, co-wrote and launched the university’s MA Sustainable Design (2009), which he leads as Course Director. The programme focuses on the ecological, social and commercial implications of our interactions with the designed world; bringing together candidates from industrial design, ecology, materials science, architecture, psychology, sociology and business. He received an ‘Excellence Award’ (2011), under the category of ‘Most Inspirational Teacher’.
He currently supervise eight PhD students, across industrial design, interaction design, visual communication and sustainability. He has supervised over 100 MA theses, and examined several PhDs at world-leading universities, including: The Royal College of Art (UK); TU Delft (The Netherlands); University of the Arts London (UK); KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden); and, Cambridge University (UK).
Chapman has delivered over 50 keynote lectures at academic conferences, industrial seminars and policy advisory sessions, worldwide. He will deliver a keynote at the 10th International Conference on Design & Emotion (27-30 September, 2016), having been named a Global Thought Leader in this multidisciplinary field. His work also generates media attention, including: The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, CNN International and BBC Radio 4. The New Scientist described him as a ‘mover and shaker’ (2007) and a ‘new breed of sustainable design thinker’ (2009).
He is a member of several juries, committees and advisory boards, and a regular reviewer for many leading academic journals (e.g. Design Issues, Design Studies), international publishers (e.g. MIT Press, Routledge, Berg) and Research Councils (e.g. AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC). He was guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of Design Engineering under the specialist theme of Design & Emotion (vol 20/5).
A major anthology (forthcoming, March 2017) presenting the first overview of the burgeoning field of Sustainable Industrial and Product Design.
A research partnership with The Body Shop developing sustainable materials, manufacturing processes and products that enrich user experience.
A research partnership pioneering Industrial Design tools and methods to extend product life, enrich user experience and enhance resource efficiency.
Professor Chapman's book is an essential point of reference for designers at the intersection of Industrial Design, Sustainability and Psychology.
A research programme pioneering new sustainable innovation tools, methods and capabilities to advance Puma's Industrial Design agenda.
Co-design and leadership of the MA Sustainable Design—a transdisciplinary programme advancing the ecological, social and commercial impact of Design.
Invited by The House of Lords to present an advisory paper informing governmental policy on Industrial Design and waste reduction.
Nominated to deliver a ‘Sustainable Design Master Class’ alongside Dieter Rams, Ezio Manzini, Victor Margolin, Clive Dilnot and Per Mollerup.
Invited by the editors of Design Issues to develop an article exploring the 'emotional durability' of designed interactions with electronic products.
Professor Chapman's research paper was selected by the Design & Emotion Society's judging panel to form part of a book.
Invited by the editors of Design Issues to redefine the role of design in promoting human and environmental wellbeing.
Scholarships and awards
Recent keynote and plenary addresses
Membership of academic, industrial and governmental advisory boards
“Brimming with intelligent viewpoints, critical propositions, practical examples and rich theoretical analyses, Chapman’s latest book [Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design] provides an essential point of reference for scholars and practitioners at the intersection of product design and sustainability.”
(John Thackara, Founder, Doors of Perception, 2017)
“An utmost intriguing and extensive multi-angled journey through the constructed world we live in. Design lies at the core of the errors in our system and can only be solved by rethinking it all from the start. Professor Chapman’s handbook makes clear how we can realise this necessary transformation towards intelligent products with healthy upcyclable materials. When we understand where we come from and are aware of the beneficial alternatives for today’s tomorrow, we can define our future positively.”
(Michael Braungart, CEO EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung, Co-founder Cradle to Cradle, 2017)
“Product design is at a crossroads with product designers now a fractured constituency. The difference can be viewed in three ways: retaining the historically established focus on the object, be it so often bonded to the unsustainable; redeeming the object by attempting to make it ‘sustainable’; or lastly, abandoning, eliminating or dematerialising it. The collection of essays in Chapman’s edited book gives the discerning reader the opportunity to make an informed decision on the most appropriate path design and designing should take.”
(Tony Fry, Director, Studio at the Edge of the World, 2017)
“To profoundly understand something, you need to study it from all possible angles. Chapman’s impressive volume does exactly this. With contributions by leading scholars from a diverse range of backgrounds, it brings us the multidisciplinary perspective on sustainable product design that designers, academics, and – ultimately – the world so desperately need.”
(Paul Hekkert, Professor, Department of Industrial Design, TU Delft, The Netherlands, 2016)
“The case against mindless design has never been made more effectively. Chapman brings together an amazing assembly of contemporary design researchers to discuss one of our greatest challenges: making the world safe for future inhabitants. Whatever you are designing, you may want to keep this handbook close to remind you of all the exciting new possibilities for sustainable design.”
(Conny Bakker, Design for Sustainability and Circular Product Design, TU Delft, The Netherlands, 2016)
“Jonathan Chapman analyses our patterns of consumption and waste, and successfully offers strategies and tools which can act as an alternative to our ‘throwaway society’. Emotional durability is vital to creating designs that people love and cherish, instead of simply making products to be thrown away.”
(Marcel Wanders, designer and director, ‘Marcel Wanders’, The Netherlands, 2015)
“Jonathan Chapman dares to think differently about design. His inspiring insights are potentially hugely influential. By unpicking the complex emotions and psychology behind the way we relate to and feel about the objects with which we surround ourselves, he radically reimagines those relationships. Chapman suggests a powerful, sustainable “story of stuff” – one where design delights and is cherished once again.”
(Ed Gillespie, co-founder, Futerra Sustainability Communications, UK, 2015)
“Applying Jonathan Chapman’s philosophy of emotional durability has helped our team to rethink not only the type of products that can be developed in the future but also the role they can play in our ever-changing world.”
(Dr Jon Mason, Design Research, Philips, The Netherlands, 2015)
“Emotionally Durable Design offers a profoundly original view on sustainability by shifting our focus from the durability of products to the durability of consumer-product relationships. With six opportunities to foster empathetic bonds between users and their products, Jonathan Chapman shares his uplifting vision on durability that puts the mystery and wonder back into design, revealing how sustainable design can be a central pioneer of positive social change.”
(Pieter Desmet, Professor, Design for Experience, TU Delft, The Netherlands, 2014)
“While a coterie of theorists try to convince us that our objects are the albatross around our neck to blame for the environmental malaise, and must be rejected, Chapman makes the compelling argument that more, not less connection is needed. His passionate and accessible treatise explains how, by combining material and emotional intelligence, we can achieve the responsible and rewarding cycles we need in order to survive.”
(Tim Parsons, Associate Professor, Designed Objects, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, US, 2014)
“Chapman’s research has advanced our thinking on sustainable design and made a considerable contribution to our quest for enhanced resource efficiency, and increased product and brand value. His lectures, master-classes, workshops and training films have helped to move our sustainability story forward by shaping the attitude and approach of our designers and management teams.”
(Dr Reiner Hengstmann, Global Director, PUMA, 15 November 2013)
“In the developed world, we live in a throwaway society with a global production system that’s riddled with inefficiency and waste. But what if a product developed as it aged, improved over time? Would we throw it away so readily then? According to Professor Chapman of the University of Brighton, UK: The idea is to use product and brand as talking points; the product is a conversation piece that creates a lasting connection between the business and its customers and, ultimately, increase loyalty to the brand and drives sales.”
(Flemich Webb, ‘Designing for a Sustainable Future’, Making It, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 30th August, 2013)
“The theory of emotionally durable design has played a key role in helping designers and businesses address problems of e-waste, and product obsolescence, enabling us to look more at the challenge of weaning people off their desire for the new all the time.”
(Emily Nicoll, General Manager: Sustainability, Sony Europe, 15 November, 2013)
“In 2005 a book was published called Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy. It was a call to arms for professionals, students and academic creatives to think about designing things we would cherish and keep, rather than throw away. ‘It’s actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What’s not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people ... we haven’t been trained to do that,’ he told the Today programme’s Evan Davis. Professor Chapman stressed the importance to ‘de-materialise and to use less, whilst also considering ways in which we build greater resilience into the relationships between people and their possessions’.”
(Evan Davis, ‘What is Emotionally Durable Design?’, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 9th February, 2013)
“Say you have a product that lasts on average 12 months, says Jonathan Chapman, Professor of Sustainable Design at the University of Brighton, who developed the emotionally durable design concept. If you can extend that use-career to 18 months through emotionally durable design, you have bought about a 50% reduction in waste consumption in the majority of materials, energy and systems associated with that product. Chapman advises a number of global businesses on how they can make their products and services more sustainable – environmentally, socially and financially.”
(Flemich Webb, ‘Time for new business models based on durable design?’, Guardian Sustainable Business, 18th January, 2013)
“The phrase ‘Emotionally Durable Design’, borrowed from Professor Jonathan Chapman, helped to explain the irrational associations carried by materials, as in the example of aeroplane construction after 1920, when laminated timber was superseded by metal more as a result of ideology than necessity. There was a contemporary significance to this, because emotional durability can achieve sustainability when people want to hang on to things rather than replace them.”
(Tanya Harrod, ‘Visionary Rather than Practical: Sustainability and Material Efficiency in Art, Craft and Design’, The Artworkers’ Guild, Proceedings, No. 27, January, 2013 )
“Emotionally Durable Design is an articulate case for the need for objects and buildings with strong narratives that can help forge bonds with users through their inherent storytelling qualities.”
(Zoë Ryan, Curator of Architecture and Design, Chair of the Department of Architecture and Design, Art Institute of Chicago, 2012)
“The environment at the University of Brighton seems like one of ideas; well, this is what Puma’s innovation Group is about; its about bringing new ideas to the market, through new and novel thinking to change the way that Puma is doing business, through the lens of sustainability. Being here at the University of Brighton will be a phenomenal partnership, in terms of sharing new ideas, and moving the never-ending effort of sustainability forward. I think the idea of innovating and being able to work with your hands is something that doesn’t quite exist in a lot of the corporate environments, and I have been speaking with Professor Chapman about trying to create that type of environment within our Innovation Team – whether its in our Boston facility, or within our Headquarters in Germany.”
(Louis Joseph: Global Director of Strategy & Innovation, PUMA, 2011)
“Among the student community, consciousness of ecological issues is becoming increasingly prominent, says Professor Jonathan Chapman, Course Director on Brighton University’s MA in Sustainable Design. Indeed, industrial design used to be primarily concerned with ergonomics, performance and styling. Today, it’s all those things, but with sustainability now a key ingredient, considered alongside those more established design considerations.”
(Sarah Lonsdale, ‘Sustainable design ideas from young designers’, The Daily Telegraph, 12th July 2011, UK)
“The lecture Professor Chapman gave to our design teams at PUMA was absolutely spot-on; exactly what was needed to get them engaged with sustainable design, and motivated to become part of the solution.”
(Bernd Kellar, Global Director of Design, PUMA, Herzogenaurach, Germany, 2010)
“Jonathan Chapman also looks to the future in, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy (Earthscan, 2005), a call for professionals and students alike to prioritise the relationships between design and its users, as a way of developing more sustainable attitudes to, and in, design things.”
(Clark, H. & Brody, D., Design Studies: A Reader, Berg, New York, US, 2009, p531)
“Drawing on the work of authors such as Thackara and Chapman, it is demonstrated that diversity in taste can be accommodated and welcomed within this relatively new and developing area of [sustainable] design ... Chapman has suggested that users should be ‘designed into narratives as co-producers and not simply as inert, passive witnesses’ (2005). He speaks of the need for design to overcome its preoccupation with what he terms ‘box-fresh’ experiences and product novelty in order to develop a material culture where there is a continuous narrative of progressive change and meaningful, mutual growth.”
(Professor Stuart Walker, ‘After Taste – The Power and Prejudice of Product Appearance’, The Design Journal, vol 12, Issue 1, Berg, 2009)
“Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency. But are these efforts to save the planet enough? We asked some movers and shakers for their recommendations. Here is what they said: ‘Disconnect yourself from the cyclical system of desire and disappointment that fosters unhappiness and frustration with the products you already have, and creates tension between actual and desired states of being that, over time, manifest as continual dissatisfaction’ (Professor Chapman, University of Brighton, UK).”
(‘How to do your bit for the planet’, New Scientist, 15th October, 2008)
“‘Somewhere during the last 100 years, we learned to find refuge outside the species, in the silent embrace of manufactured objects’, Jonathan Chapman, a young product designer and theorist at the University of Brighton, writes in his book Emotionally Durable Design. ‘The mobile phone occupies a kind of glossy, scratch-free world ... as soon you purchase it, you can only watch it migrating further away from what it is you want — a glossy, scratch-free object.’ You might leave the plastic film over the display for a few days, just so you can take it off later and ‘give yourself a second honeymoon with the phone,’ he says. But ultimately everything that first attracted you to it only deteriorates. You start looking at it differently. ‘It’s made of some kind of sparkle-finished polymer and it’s got some decent curves on it, but so what? The intimacy comes more from the fact that, within that hand-held piece of plastic, exists your whole world’ — your friends’ phone numbers, your digital pictures, your music — and that stuff can be easily transferred to a new one. So you ‘fall out of love’ with the phone, Chapman says. There is no heaven for cellphones. Wherever they go, it seems that something, somewhere, to some extent always ends up being damaged or depleted. The only heaven I came across was what Chapman described. It is an image in our heads — not of a place where we can send a used phone but one where we imagine each device when it’s brand-new, right before we first get our hands on it. That illusion of perfection, no matter how many times we see it spoiled, will always lure us into buying the next new phone and sending the last one careering on its way.”
(Jon Mooallem, ‘The Afterlife of Cellphones’, The New York Times, 13 January, 2008)
“In his book, Emotionally Durable Design, Jonathan Chapman explains appropriateness as a function of a product’s emotional presence, evolution and growth. He says that it is not enough for a product to provoke an emotional response within the user on one occasion; it must do this repeatedly. In effect, a relationship with an object must be developed over an extended period of time.”
(Fletcher, K., Sustainable Fashion & Textiles: Design Journeys, Routledge, London, 2008)
“When you look at the scientific basis and reduce the energy footprint during production but you also look at the psychological and emotional factors during use, says Chapman. When you start to integrate like that, that’s when you start to achieve sustainable design.”
(Charlie Devereux, ‘Disposing of our throwaway culture’, CNN International, October 21, 2007)
“Sustainable design has to pollute and infect its way into the mainstream, says Jonathan Chapman, [and] for it to take on this viral quality, it needs to open up and be unpacked.”
(Pamela Buxton, ‘Green Team’, Design Week, Vol 22, No 37, 13 September, 2007, pp13-15)
“We don’t throw things away because they are broken – it’s usually because we have fallen out of love with them, says Jonathan Chapman, who is trying to promote what he calls ‘emotionally durable’ design as a way of reducing the generation of toxic waste. Chapman believes we need a big shift in our attitude to the things we live with. At the beginning of a relationship with a product, we consume it rampantly, he says. Then consumption becomes routine, and we stop thinking about it altogether and start noticing newer models. Often the relationship ends because the product is not doing something we want it to do, or it has started doing something we didn’t think it would do, but not because it doesn’t work. Unless we return to more sustainable relationships with these possessions we are going to have a really huge problem.”
(Lois Rogers, ‘Consumer Adultery: The new British vice’, New Statesman, 5 February, 2007)
“Chapman, a Professor from the University of Brighton, UK, is one of a new breed of sustainable designers. Like many of us, they are concerned about the huge waste associated with our consumer culture, and the damage this does to the environment. To understand why we have become so profligate, Chapman believes we should look to the underlying motivations of consumers. Following Chapman’s notion of emotionally durable design, there is likely to be a move away from mass-production and towards tailor-made articles and products designed and manufactured with greater craftsmanship.”
(Ed Douglas, ‘Designed to Last’, New Scientist, January 6, 2007, pp31-35)
“In a BBC Radio 4 show entitled ‘Possessions and Limitations’ a reading from Jonathan Chapman’s book, Emotionally Durable Design was made; asserting Chapman’s proposition that ‘the material you possess signifies the destiny you chase’. This 30-minute feature argued that possessions are our limitations, and also included extracts from other works by Oscar Wilde, Mahatma Gandhi and Persian poet Rumi.”
(Tom Robinson, ‘Something Understood: Possessions and Limitations’, BBC Radio 4, January 28, 2007)
“Many cherished products survive in kitchens, living rooms and wardrobes even when they are long past their best. This is quite a challenge for designers, as Jonathan Chapman stresses in his book Emotionally Durable Design, only when the relationship between user and product is as durable as the object itself can the wheelie bin be avoided.”
(Will Anderson, ‘The Green House’, The Independent, July 26, 2006)